Notes From the Field: Pondy Vibes

Notes From the Field: Pondy Vibes
September 2018

Recently returned from her sixth visit to the subcontinent, self-confessed Indiaphile, Serena Mitchell, A&K’s PR & Communications Manager, discovered much more than desert fortresses and marble monuments. Charmed by colonial Pondicherry, a.k.a. Pondy, she discovered a town best explored on foot, strolling through the cobblestoned streets where brightly-coloured bougainvillea tumbles down pastel-coloured shop fronts, the scent of fresh jasmine wafts through the alleyways and the salty sea air blows in from the Bay of Bengal. Here are some of her favourite finds and what not to miss.

Take a Stroll
Established as headquarters for the French East India Company in the 17th century, Pondicherry is still chock full of colonial mansions and imposing cathedrals. It’s got a laid-back vibe and is a lovely place to wander around. Easy to navigate, the city is divided by the canal. On one side the chaotic streets and markets of the Tamil town and on the other, the waterfront promenade and charming avenues of the French Quarter, where leafy trees shade elegant boutiques and cafés. Your guide will point out all the landmarks and the best places for a fresh lime juice.

Hand Stitched
Behind the high walls of a grand 18th century residential bungalow, the Cluny Embroidery Centre is a hidden gem. Run by the gentle Sister Agathe and local nuns, the centre supports and employs local underprivileged women who have been taught the art of needlework and produce the most delicate hand-embroidered linens. Pop in and watch the women at work and put in an order for a tablecloth or set of napkins, hand towels or bed linen.

Creative Rarities
For a selection of the town’s best collectibles, head to Domus in the French Quarter. An eclectic lifestyle store with shady courtyard café, this is a real treasure trove. Best buys include vintage furniture and enamelware, textiles, lamps, art and ceramics.

Pondy Palace
Just a block away from the sea, the Palais de Mahe is a stunner. Painted a rich buttery yellow with white pillars and breezy walkways, potted palms and high ceilings, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a grand colonial mansion. Rooms have heritage character in spades with loads of space, polished concrete floors and windows onto the central colonnaded courtyard. Take a dip in the pool and book in for a traditional Ayurvedic treatment before dining on spicy southern dishes at the rooftop restaurant.

Café Coromandel
The salmon pink wall and sage green doorway on the Rue Romain Rolland indicate your arrival. Traveller’s palms welcome those in the know into the shady garden and beyond to the café and restaurant where some of Pondy’s best cuisine is dished up. Stylish colonial interiors cleverly blend French panache with a soupçon of the tropics. Dine inside or out on a tasty menu with highlights including the tamarind glazed chicken and the Pondy smoked sailfish, washed down beautifully by a paan mojito.